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Saturday, 16 February 2019

Inappropriate Characters Tomorrow


I've got hardly any time to write this, as I'm about to play some Lords of Olympus, but I wanted to let everyone know that tomorrow, 7:30PM CST, we'll be having another episode of Inappropriate Characters! 

We'll almost certainly be dedicating most of it to different aspects of the Zak S scandal, including the bad behaviour of certain individuals trying to opportunistically engage in vendettas or censorship over this.

And since Venger, Grimjim and I don't really agree on all points regarding this sensitive situation, it's bound to be an interesting episode.

So, be sure to tune in tomorrow and check it out!

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Camembert (I'm having lunch)


Friday, 15 February 2019

Classic Rant: "Real Magick" in RPGs: Tools & Talismans


First, once again, our foundational rule as always: in real world occultism, it's EASY to find occult knowledge, it's HARD to find anyone who actually engages in practicing it, because 90% of the people in the scene are armchair-magicians or posers or frauds or dilettantes, anything but people who actually work at doing magick.

One way to tell a faker from someone (potentially) genuine is to look at the magical accouterments they use.  Are they going around with a fancy-looking crystal-encrusted rune-marked perfectly-straight wand that may have been store-bought or ordered from Etsy?  They're 99% likely to be frauds (that last percentage point is just because there just may be some serious magician who has gotten to the level of occult talent that he doesn't have to give a fuck what he does, and also doesn't care about being mistaken for a poser).


(this one can be yours for $190 from the Magic Wand Store. I kid you not)

Are they using an wooden wand they clearly crafted themselves (or maybe even a metal wand they smelted themselves) with tremendous attention to qabbalistic correspondences? There's maybe only a 70% chance they're fakers.  Why so high still, you ask, given that clearly it's a case of someone doing something?

For a very good reason: collecting (or even making) the accouterments of magick does not make you a magician.  There are lots of people who, in addition to collecting an enormous library of occult grimoires (the likes of which would have made John Dee piss his robe with envy), also collect or even carefully craft the magical tools, the wand, the lamp, the altar, paint a ritual room, carefully carve enochian tables using authentic medieval methods, commission gold-trimmed robes and the most expensive frankincense, and so on, but then don't actually do a damn thing with them all.   Sort of like the guy who collects hundreds of RPG books and owns 17 pounds of dice (and probably posts like crazy on internet forums), but never 'has the time' to actually play.


(here's a "did it all my fucking self and I'm probably too busy making wands to do any actual magick" wand)

Finally, if your possible magician's wand is just a stick, there's maybe a 90% chance of being a faker.  Or better put, this is the scenario where the person in question is either going to be a total faker/poser/newbie of no value (probably claiming they're a 'chaos magician'), or a really impressively competent magician.  The guys in the middle, the eager-beavers trying hard to figure out how to do all this stuff, will become obsessive about trying to get every last technical detail right, following Golden Dawn rules or following the precise (often ridiculously difficult) instructions found in medieval grimoires. This is important, for the discipline needed to learn. Thing is, when you get to the level of adept suddenly all those tools have been largely internalized, as have the correspondences. And at that point you can do magick equally well with the simplest of tools, or even whatever objects you have at hand.  Aleister Crowley famously once did a magical operation halfway up a mountain using the stuff from his climbing gear.

Which brings us to the use of magical talismans.  A talisman is a term for some kind of physical object that was used in a magical ritual to imbue it with some kind of particular 'magical link' to an archetypal force, to achieve a specific purpose.   This is used to create a more lasting effect or for purposes you know you're going to need over and over again.

For talismans, the rule is exactly the same as with all the other magical tools and equipment: if it's all fancy and clearly store-bought it's almost certainly useless. If it's meticulously made (usually, in the case of western magical talismans, at least, out of some type of metal) with carved Hebrew characters or sigils, there's a (high) chance it's bullshit and a (small) chance it might be the work of some intermediate magician (and thus reflective of either a successful or unsuccessful operation).



(here's a fancy talisman, which means it probably does nothing)

What about the advanced ones?  Well, consider this: the most powerful of all the medieval grimoires (the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage) has a set of talismans in it (and guidelines for creating them or others of the same kind) that are so dangerous that they can only be used by Adepts.  These are the most powerful and effective talismans in western magick.  And what do they look like?

Like a slip of paper with a square full of letters on it.  Something that could be mistaken for a doodle, or an incoherent crossword.

The most advanced magicians usually make talismans that don't look like talismans at all.

They can only do this effectively, again, because as adepts they have completely internalized the power of Symbol.  The reason you need, when you're starting out, to follow the rules (and the reason why most rule-breaking 'chaos magicians' are kind of crappy in spite of tending to actually try to do magick more often than most other types of magicians) is because these outward objects end up acting as powerful symbolic aids in connecting your conscious mind to the True Will, and from there to those Archetypal Forces you're trying to work with.  This is another important rule of 'real magick': the more simple anything to do with magick is, the more advanced of a magician you have to be to do it right.  The most complex rituals, though technically difficult, are the ones you'll be most likely to succeed at if you're a hard-working beginner.  The "simplest" stuff (in terms of technical complexity) requires that you already have a strong background in the practice of daily preliminary disciplines and have internalized the symbols through a series of personal initiations and 'ordeals' (that is, shifts in your level of consciousness).  Trying to 'skip ahead' to the stuff that looks easier will usually just leave you in a dead end.

In a modern-occult RPG, you could have some rumor going around about some serious magician, said to own a talisman of an aspect of Jupiter that was revealed to him during astral working while he was working with a secret book (the "Second Book of Abramelin", which had been dictated to him by his Augoeides while working adept-level ritual).   This facet of Jupiter (who called himself Jupiter Celestion) governed work, discipline, labor, planning, enjoyment (in and of labor), and the creation of the material world (that last aspect would be particularly interesting, as it would permit the magician to manipulate the most basic level of material reality).  Celestion endowed this magician with a talisman that, when held and activated, would draw material wealth, never undeserved wealth but in the form of easy opportunities to labor at what one would most love doing.

Now, the PCs might wish to try to obtain this talisman, in essence cheating their way to magical power (that never ends well, mind you, but maybe they're stupid or something), so they try to find this guy's talisman.  They're looking for some kind of metal disk (tin, probably, since that's the qabalistic metal of Jupiter) with Jupiter-related symbols on it, or some other kind of fancy object. They fail to find it, maybe get caught.  Imagine their surprise when the magician chuckles at their naivete and reveals the reason they came up empty-handed: they were looking for some fancy piece of jewelry, but it turns out the Talisman of Jupiter Celestion is an 25 cent piece.


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

(originally posted April 20, 2015)

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Wild West Campaign: The Retrial



In our latest session, the PCs were still in an increasingly-tense Tombstone. The Earp group, including the PCs, were in control over the town, but all there rest of the county was under Cowboy domination.

The PCs were still mourning the death of Jeff Young at the hands of commancheros; surely they were probably also thinking about how it was unbelievable misfortune losing one of their very best shots during these tense times.

There was some good news, however. Jim Jackson and his Scottish partner Smiley had come back into town after nearly a year. They were shocked by current developments, but quickly got back to working for Crazy Miller.

The Earps got a surprise when they were informed that OK-Corral survivor Ike Clanton, with the help from his lawyer Bill McClaury (the brother of the two McClauries to have died at the OK Corral), made an appeal to obtain a new hearing against the Earps, but in the town of Contention.



The argument was that Judge Wells Spicer was prejudiced in favor of the Earps and against the Clantons, and thus a new trial was called for. The PCs lawyer advised the Earps that the appeal was almost certain to be rejected. But the Earps were concerned that this wasn't the cowboys' real goal. Wyatt Earp figured that the whole thing was just an excuse to force Wyatt, Morgan and Doc (Virgil was exempted as he was still recovering from his injuries) to leave Tombstone and travel in open country where the Cowboys could ambush and kill them.

So Wyatt decided that the plan was safety in numbers. They got together a big group of men, including Crazy Miller, Jackson and Smiley, Kid Taylor, Bat Masterson, Buckskin Frank, and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson to ride out with him, Morgan, Doc and the lawyer to Contention.

Meanwhile, Other Miller, Texas Jack Vermillion and Sherman McMaster would stay in town, along with Deputy Marshal Charlie Bassett, to take care of the town and guard Virgil and the women-folk. Virgil, his wife Allie, along with Morgan's wife Louise and Wyatt's partner Maddy were all staying in expensive rooms in the Grand Hotel. Before leaving town, Kid Taylor had his wife Frances and their baby join the Earp family... and more controversially, Wyatt got his lover Sadie Marcus to stay there too, to absolutely no one's satisfaction.



The group headed to Contention ended up passing the night in Charlton, where there were quite a few cowboys, but Bat Masterson pulled some strings and the local "vigilance committee" of business-owners came to their aid, a vigilante group of a couple of dozen men kept watch over the Earp party to make sure that if there was a shootout, it wouldn't be in Charlton. The night went through calmly and the next day they continued on and arrived in Contention.
Contention was absolutely full to the brim with Cowboys, and the townsfolk were all in their pockets, so there'd be no help from friendlies here. Wyatt and Morgan decided to commandeer the Registry Office (where the hearing would be held the next day) and stay holed up there that night, ready to fight off any potential siege.



But it seems the Cowboys actually had other plans. Taking advantage of the relative lack of Earp lawmen and shootists in Tombstone, they went in and set fire to Other Miller's house. He wasn't in it at the time, mind you. As everyone rushed over that way, the lawmen suddenly thought that maybe the burning down of his house was a distraction. So they split up, and went to go protect Judge Spicer, Mayor Clum, and Virgil and the women in the Grand Hotel.

Other Miller took the latter job, and as he entered the hotel, he suddenly heard shotgun shots! Realizing they came from the lot behind the hotel, he raced to the rear door, even as he heard return fire coming from the Earps' window.
Other Miller got out the back door to see a group of four or five cowboys running off in the night. He shot in their direction, hitting one pretty badly and grazing another, but they ran away (and Other Miller, due to an old wound, couldn't run after them).  Virgil called out to him from the window that they were alright, that the cowboys hadn't shot through the windows and seemed to just be shooting into the air as if to intimidate them.  As it turns out, Other Miller was glad he hadn't killed any of them just then, as it might have made for a complicated trial.  Other Miller had no way of knowing it, but the cowboy he injured was none other than Phin Clanton, Ike's brother.

The next day in Contention, the local judge very quickly dismissed the complaint made by Ike Clanton. Wyatt and the group were worried that the PCs were going to be ambushed as soon as they headed back for Tombstone, so it occurred to them to take a turn as soon as they were out of view of town, and turn toward Bisbee.  They managed to sneak off that way, and got to Bisbee where the town Sheriff greeted them and had already worked along with Railroad men to get the cowboys out of the town.

So in the end no lives were lost this time, but everyone was pretty shook up. It was clear that a big fight was imminent. And when they got back to Tombstone, all the Earps were upset at their women being threatened. Realizing he couldn't protect her, Wyatt made Sadie Marcus leave town, and possibly walk out of his life forever.

Kid Taylor, meanwhile, realized that there was nothing left for him in Tombstone and he was putting his young family at risk.  His pride was the only thing keeping him here, not wanting to seem yellow and leave his associates when they were going to face the cowboys, but he had to put his family first. So he and his wife decided they would be leaving town next month.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Neerup Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

20 More Dubious Items of the Last Sun!

A while back I presented you guys with 20 Dubious Magic Items of the Last Sun.  It was a collection of 20 weird gonzo-fantasy items, of variable levels of actual utility, comic value, and weirdness.

But the Last Sun is a big world, and a sequel was called for!




In RPGPundit Presents #67: 20 More Dubious Items of the Last Sun, you get a whole new collection of these weird objects.  Including:

-The Fungusman Box

- The Brain Jar

-Beads of Neutrality

-The Theme-Song Potion

-The Legion of Super-Cool Teens Hoverboard

-The Messenger Chicken

-Magic Warhammers (of the Workshop)

-The Dagger of Teleportation

-The Wish Parasite

And many more!


If you're looking for truly strange and creative magical (and a few high-tech) items for your Gonzo OSR campaign, or with some modification for any other fantasy campaign, here's a product for you!


You can pick up RPGPundit Pesents #67: 20 More Dubious Items of the Last Sun at the Precis Intermedia Webstore, or from DTRPG. Either way for just $2.49. That's less than the price of a fancy coffee!


And while you're at it, be sure to pick up the rest of the great supplements in the RPGPundit Presents series:


RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia  (usable for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons


RPGPundit Presents #5: The Child-Eaters (an adventure scenario for Lion & Dragon!)









RPGPundit Presents #17: The Hunters (an adventure for Lion & Dragon!)




RPGPundit Presents #21: Hecate's Tomb (an adventure for Lion & Dragon!)































RPGPundit Presents #54: Medieval College Adventures (compatible with Lion & Dragon)




RPGPundit Presents #58: Expanded Prior History Tables  (compatible with Lion & Dragon!)






RPGPundit Presents #65: The Defilers (compatible with Lion & Dragon)


Stay tuned for more next week!

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Rhodesian + Image Virginia

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

El Huevo de Dragon

En el mas nuevo numero de RPGPundit Presents traducido al castellano, les presentamos "El Huevo De Dragon", una aventura medieval-autentico!



Este escenario ha sido diseñado para usarse en tu campaña de Dark Albion empleando el sistema de León y Dragón, pero puede modificarse con facilidad para jugarlo con tu sistema OSR favorito (especialmente si es medieval de corte realista). Los Tres Eds, un trío de criminales, está tratando de vender un huevo de dragón, algo que no se ha visto en siglos. También tienen un ritual que puede hacer eclosionar el huevo aparentemente dormido. Hacen su aparición los personajes jugadores, que pueden haber sido contratados para comprovar su autenticidad, robarlo o quizá confiscarlo para la Iglesia o para su Señor. Al tener lugar en Londres, es probable que los jugadores deban viajar por las alcantarillas hasta unos antiguos baños y enfrentarse a los hombres rata y a sus verdaderas intenciones.

Compra El Huevo de Dragon en DTRPG, o en la tienda web de Precis Intermedia!


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Barking Dog 

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Classic Rant: Real Magick in RPGs: Thelema

In a modern occult game, the PCs might run into some new-age goofballs, or some neo-pagan eclectics, while they're looking for someone who can provide them some kind of information or real magical assistance. Chances are, those people will be useless.  But sooner or later, someone is going to point them to some guy or some group that they think of as "dark", or even more often as "assholes", but that may actually have the information or skills they seek; odds are, those will be the Thelemites.

Don't get me wrong: chances are most of the Thelemites will be useless too.

Thelema is in many ways the 20th century's greatest magical tradition, born out of the Golden Dawn (which was the 19th's greatest tradition), and it was directly or semi-directly the source of so much of what we think of as Occultism today, including Wicca, most Neo-Paganism, Chaos Magick, and it was even peripherally involved in the rise of Scientology.  Not to mention being a big influence on a lot of the big movers of the hippie era:  Timothy Leary, William S. Burroughs, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, discordianism, Robert Anton Wilson... from both the artistic and the 'philosophical' side (using that term loosely), Thelema was the well from which they all drank.

So what's the deal with it?  That might be too much to express in just one blog entry, so you may need to do some extra research if you really give a damn.  But putting it in brief, Thelema was a radical new expression of everything that had come before in western magick, and set up as a truly complete and coherent system of rigorous esoteric/spiritual practice for the first time in at least 1500 years in the west.

It was founded on a series of Holy Books that were received by Aleister Crowley in 1904 (at which time he had already been an ex-magician, having worked in the Golden Dawn, become disillusioned, and taken up buddhism instead), through a vision his wife had on their honeymoon while they were spending the night inside the Great Pyramid of Giza (because back then you could just do that, if you had money).  The vision led him into communication with the solar-god Ra-Hoor-Khuit through a being called Aiwass, who was Crowley's own Augoeides (guiding spirit, or the reflection of his higher self, if you want to simplify it somewhat).

These workings led Crowley to re-invent the magical system already developed by the Golden Dawn into a new system, a mixture of magical practice with a new pagan-inspired (but not inherently pagan) philosophy, centered around the core teaching of the Book of the Law:  "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law; Love is the law, love under will". The system was a kind of western tantra, involving the overcoming of one's self through rigorous yogic practice, ceremonial magick, meditation, and initiations.

Again, that's all the theory.  In practice, what happened is that like anything else in occultism, the vast majority of people involved decided that it's a lot easier to be a poser than to be legit.  Crowley was a transgressive figure, and his reputation for breaking all the rules caused him to make relatively little ground in his own lifetime; by the time he died in 1947, in spite of some initial gains, there were probably only a few dozen Thelemites in the entire world.   But later, in the 1960s, Crowley's philosophy took off among the hippies and the post-hippies and later among the punks and the heavy-metal fans and the goths, so that there are now probably tens of thousands of Thelemites world-wide, and a lot more people who are peripherally connected to his work (whether they know it or not).

But most of these people were really drawn to the idea of "Do what thou wilt" just meaning "do what you like", or they were drawn to the sex-magic stuff (which was really only one small, though important, part of Thelema, and not for beginners), or to the idea that it might be "satanic" (a claim mostly made by its detractors).  So just like you have a lot of neo-pagans who are really mistaking their religion for a D&D-Larp or a Ren Faire, today you have a lot of Thelemites who are really mistaking their religion for playing at being Azrael Abyss.

(future "thelemites")


That is, again, one of the main things to remember in running a genuine modern-occult games.  Real magical teachings are NOT hard to find, you don't need to go to old libraries and look for difficult texts for months; you can get it all on the internet these days.  But its really really hard to find people who have actually worked the work, regardless of the tradition.   For a lot of Thelemites, their work consists in having occasionally read some of Crowley's work, having maybe done a Banishing Ritual once or twice in their lives, maybe having joined the O.T.O. (the most popular Thelemic group) which is a bit like Freemasonry but less stable and more lame, or just hanging around wiccan/pagan groups freaking them out and telling them that they just ripped off Crowley...




It doesn't help that by definition, Thelema is one of the ultimate Individualist philosophies. "Every man and every woman is a star", says the Book of the Law; which is to say every person is unique and must find their will (their true Will, the guidance of their higher self, again really simplifying it there).  This means a lot of Thelemites don't generally play well in groups.   Thelemites are a crazy mix of radical lefties, total libertarians, anarchists, quasi-fascists, drop-out stoners, off-the-grid nutsos, and general whackos.  As always, the ones who are really good at it, who do the work and have gotten somewhere, are often not very interested in spending a lot of time around all the other guys, or if they do they keep what they've done relatively quiet.

Even so, if you can find one of those guys, they're the ones most likely, in all the western traditions, of having something worth telling you or showing you.  Ironically, for a system that says "do what thou wilt" and for a movement that is so full of people who are often about style (usually 'sinister' style) over substance, the actual PRACTICE of Thelema requires an insane amount of discipline.  The payoff is that it is the most coherent magical system for systematically gaining the skills necessary for magical work.  Once again, none of the teaching is secret, but the art of how to apply it in the right order is just really hard, and thus usually ignored or skipped over.   It sure does bring results, if you follow through though.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Perique

(originally posted April 15, 2015)